Tonight, I decided to go with a couple of friends to the Friday night outreach at Beautiful Feet Ministries. It was the first time I had been to Beautiful Feet. Regularly, friends from the Baptist student Ministries and I would go to the local Salvation Army during Thanksgiving morning for a few years in a row; I had also volunteered at the Presbyterian Night Shelter. Each time, I felt closer to God and even feel led to think about starting my own food kitchen for the hungry and the thirsty. What is it to the person on the streets if I earn my Doctorate in Philosophy in Religious Ethics or Theological Studies or Religious Studies and Culture? That person could probably use all four or five of my degrees as toilet paper. Maybe volunteering opportunities are God’s ways of speaking to me, challenging me to protest the American Christian dream where one finds a youth group, or maybe a college group, or a singles group, gets married to one of the group members, works all their life to remain middle-middle class, then grows old and dies. Is that middle class stability all there is to life? Am I missing something here? During the 2008 presidential campaign, Senators Barack H. Obama and John McCain addressed only issues which mattered to the middle-class. Their interests, like all politicians, do not represent those of the prisoner, the hungry, the thirsty, but rather the interests of those who are college-educated, pretty nice people who dress nice and smell nice; them that are more likely to have time to go to the polls or can afford transportation to do as such.
So tonight, after we, the humble volunteers, served the persons who had come off the streets for food, the film Fireproof was shown for them. After all, the poor should listen and only receive what us good Christians have for them. Their worldview really does not matter. [SARCASM, please read the last two phrases as such] At first, I began to feel overwhelmed with guilty for being so critical of Christian movies, especially nice clean films with godly messages featuring Christian actors such as Kirk Cameron. Then, I began to hear grumblings behind me and began to notice that the people we had ministered to with food were leaving the chapel while the movie was playing, talking to themselves. But one man, in particular behind me, spoke his mind and shouted things that I just wanted to jump up and give him a high five, and affirm his subjectivity as a human being. This man, being a person in need, saw through the propaganda and the biases of Fireproof, and he spoke truth to power on some of things wrong in Christianity. Throughout the movie, he was decrying the presuppositions of the directors and producers of the film, lauding the lifestyle that Caleb and Catherine Holt (the two characters of interest in the film) lead. Both have jobs, they own a total of three cars, and lead a pretty privileged lifestyle. There was a disconnect between the experience of the oppressed and the makers of this film. This film promoted the worship of an idol: the American Christian dream, staying middle class and stable, becoming self-sufficient individuals with relatively no difference in this dream between Christians and ordinary Americans. Also, the man behind me kept shouting towards the end of the flick, as Caleb was apologizing to Catherine for not loving her, that Caleb was in a position to apologize, to say he was sorry. And as I thought about what the man was saying, he was right: Caleb was in a very special position to say he was sorry to his wife again, because he had so much to offer her, like buying his way into her good graces with several gifts, including a $23,000 one–a large sum of money for those who are starving. Also, as the couple was getting closer together, it was interesting to note the large amount of materialistic tradition that was being promoted. For example, as their commitment to marital faithfulness became stronger, both Caleb and Catherine felt it necessary to cling to rub their golden marriage rings. Are wedding rings that necessary? Do we have to depend on them to keep up from cheating on our spouses? I know several students from other countries who do not have wedding rings because it is not part of their culture and they are Christians! What gives? Consumerism. Materialism. Constantinian Christianity–that marital bliss between Christendom and American culture.
Early this week, I was accused by a colleague for being as polemical as ever. I struggle with guilt over whether I should speak out and criticize the establishment, knowing beforehand I will forever be expressing a minority opinion in a society that bows before the altars of Majoritarian Rule. Yes, I should be ashamed of myself that I would want to even want to disagree with a prevailing opinion that Fireproof is just an innocent movie about Christ’s love for the Church, with Kirk Cameron’s character obviously representing Christ like Clint Eastwood messianic portrayal in Gran Turino (I am being quite ironic in this statement again; I cannot stand Gran Turino and Eastwood’s character represents more of an imperialist, racist anti-Christ figure more than anything!). There was quite an uproar on my facebook profile when I posted Waneta Dawn’s legitimate critique of Fireproof’s silence on domestic violence. After watching it again tonight, I affirm her position. In fact, I would like to add some interesting sequences of events in the film that points towards scary implications from the movie. First, in the first thirty minutes of the movie, Caleb screams and verbally abuses his wife. One scene shows Caleb conquering his porn addiction by destroying his computer with a bat, as if in that one violent act, all of his problems have disappeared. Later, in the second half of the movie, after getting into an argument with Catherine, about two more times, Caleb goes outside and swings his Louisville Slugger to beat down in the trash cans in front of his neighbors. While it is supposed to be comic relief, suppose if this violence was directed toward women and children? What does the movie speak to that situation? Nothing but a narrow interpretation of what it means to be faithful (the irony here is that tonight, I actually heard on of the homeless persons shout that God did not make marriage for life; a chuckle was suppressed by myself), un-mutual submission on the part of the woman, and Christ-like substitutionary submissive obedience until the end? There is no preaching of the resurrection, only sin and substitutionary atonement, emphasizing Christ’s objective obedience; these doctrines alone without the bodily resurrection count for nothing on the part of the victim. What was needed was hope for victims of domestic violence, and not a silent endorsement of their oppression. The resurrection of Jesus the Messiah gives us hope, with full knowledge that God affirms human life, the human body, and protests against our violent natures. In the end, I have no regrets for criticizing popular Christian films, books, and activities. Actually, I delight in it. I do however know now how seriously the Church is complicit in worshipping the god of Middle Class Stability and for that idol, I will strive to be like Gideon or Elijah, destroying these idols via the tools of deconstruction, writing, reading, listening to the plight of the subaltern, and living in solidarity with them.
Truth and Peace,